The first case needs no comment. The second and third are important. They are useful guides to phrasing a tune in the way Reid and Connell (and perhaps Gillies) did:

When confronting an unfamiliar melody, look for introductory E’s. These mark the beginnings of important melodic units and by implication they also help define the endings of what came before. Often this will go a long way to suggest where the pauses and full stops in a tune should lie. Look, too, to identify the purely linking or bridging notes of the melody. With those identified you have the beginnings of your interpretation.

15. The introductory E marking a beginning and at the same time imply the conclusion of something before it. This accounts for a commonly recognized feature of Cameron style playing: what James Campbell termed the “pre-cadential pause”. As discussed in the Overview section, this pause before some cadences in crunluath variations has become almost diagnostic of the Cameron influenced performance.

Here are a collection of definitions of the cadence from sources ready to hand:

.....5. in music, the harmonic ending, final trill, etc. of a phrase or movement. (Webster’s New World Dictionary, World Publishing, NY 1960, page 104)

.....1. Literally “a fall”, hence, the subsidence of a melody or harmony to a point of rest; thence, any concluding strain rising or falling. (Music Lovers’ Encylopedia, Double Day, NY 1950, page 564.)

..... point at which a phrase or complete tonal melody comes to rest. (Music: Ways of Listening, Holt Rhinhart Winston, NY 1981, page 515)

....A harmonic or melodic formula that occurs at the end of a phrase, section or composition that conveys a momentary or permanent conclusion; in other words, a musical punctuation mark (Robert Greenberg, How to Listen to Great Music, Penquin Book, London, page 515)

In each of these definitions the cadence accents the end of some part of music. It is a conclusion not a beginning. In piobaireachd these cadences are best thought of a sign posts marking the ends of significant portions of the tune and reinforcing in the listener the tune’s organization.

Below is the first crunluath variation from “Glengarry’s Lament” with the cadences marked. These cadence motifs fall at the end of the structural blocks of the tune, here shown as a “bar”.

GLENGARRYS’ LAMENT: crunluath singling

In this instance each cadence is introduced with a gracenote E, i.e. an introductory E. This is not mandatory. The simplest cadence in taorluath and crunluath variations takes the form of two descending melody notes without an introductory E,

Sometimes, both simple cadences and introduced cadences appear in the same line of a variation. “Lament for the Earl of Antrim” is such a tune. Here is the first line of the crunluath variation with the cadences noted, and a “Cameronesque” interpretation suggested. The simple cadence is treated differently than that with an introduction.


A simple cadence that lacks an introductory E has no pre-cadence pause. The first note of the cadence comes quickly after the last note of the crunluath movement.

A cadence with an introductory E necessitates the pause as indicated by the fermatta on the E, the last note of the crunluath movement.

The presence of the introductory E both implies and provides greater aural weight or melodic importance to the motif it graces. The extra aural weight or melodic importance given to a cadence by an introductory E also implies that the note before is either a link note or the end of a prior phrase, and that requires a resolution.

In crunluath variations, the Cameron style piper treats the note before the introductory E as a phrase ending. Hence, the piper will extend the last E of the crunluath movement. This yields, the “pre-cadential pause” ---- which has little to do with the cadence and everything to do with the presence of the introductory E.

Exactly how long that crunluath E is prolonged, how thoroughly the melody is brought to a resolution varies among pipers (see Campbell 1984 page 13). In my experience the two Barries, William and James, bring the melody to a full stop, a complete resolution before the introductory E. James Campbell makes just the merest hang on the E before proceeding. William Connell is in the middle.

While a simple two note cadence is typically played evenly and in time with the pulse of the variation as shown in the above example, it is hard to generalize confidently about the timing of the three notes involved in an introduced cadence.

In order to achieve rhythmic balance after the pre-cadence pause, Connell often directed the E of the introductory E be slightly shortened, perhaps in recognition of its gracenote status. William and James Barrie seem to agree with Connell on this. Reid tended to play the three notes evenly and in time with the flow of the variation. Archibald Campbell, while he admits of some subtlety, suggests that timing the introduced two note cadence as three even notes will be close to the mark (1984, page 15). Rarely, if ever, is the last of the three shortened or used as a mere bridging note.

16. The Cameron aesthetic also recognizes different essential natures of the crunluaths and taorluaths as embellishments. Consequently, the cadences are treated differently in each.

Connell explained that crunluath variations are upwardly rippling and flowing. Conversely, the taorluath variations are in their nature, staccato, drumming, percussive. As much as possible the piper should ameliorate this percussive effect and emphasize a smooth, even flow.

In an effort to smooth the flow of an inherently percussive taorluath variation, two note cadences and cadences with introductory E’s were all played roughly in time. That is, without pre-cadence pause. This is the way I hear Reid and usually Connell present these introduced cadences. (see Campbell 1984, page 11). There is diversity among Cameron style players, however.

James Barrie handles introduced cadences in taorluath variations in a musically attractive style. He slightly extends the melody note before an introduced cadence and slightly broadens the low A at the end of the taorluath to balance it, making in essence a retard before the cadence. Then, the introductory E is shorten and the two notes of the cadence proper correspondingly stretched to approximate equal length.

This approach keeps the flow of the variation relatively smooth and it preserves the status of introductory E as a gracing, not allowing it full equal time as the other notes of the cadence proper. It also preserves the notion of the introductory E signifying the end of the prior phrase which needs a resolution or pause of its own. That pause is provided by a broadening of the last taorluath couplet before the E.

Here I tread on dangerous ground: the use of a full pre-cadence pause in taorluath variations. William Connell taught this in limited circumstances. It was something that John MacDonald (Inverness) also did on occasion. (See Campbell 1984, page 13). Archibald Campbell condemned the practice as did Andrew MacNeill. However, to paraphrase Campbell from another controversy, some people do not agree with this precadence pause in the taorluath, but their dissent does not alter the fact that the writer was taught to do it.

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17  
If you have questions, comments or submissions, please contact

Website Designed and Implemented by Code Monkey
DHTML/JavaScript Menu by TwinHelix Designs